A visit to: Become
Founded in 1992, Become is a national charity which provides help, support and advice to young people in care and young care leavers. In addition to working to improve the everyday lives of care-experienced young people, Become also works to improve the care system, helping young people to share their opinions and concerns with those who make decisions about policy and service provision.
Listening to the voice of young people is not a new concept for Become: they run a well-established Policy Advisory Group which informs and influences the charity’s work, including their work with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Looked-after Children and Care Leavers; and in 2017 Become formed the Ideas and Input Council, a group which helps young people’s voice be heard internally, by the charity’s board and operations team. Their application to The Listening Fund was focused on developing the work of these groups and, with dedicated staff resource, supporting young people to not only use the Policy Advisory Group and the Ideas and Input Council, but to shape how the groups themselves function and operate.
We recently visited Become’s offices in London and they shared some key lessons from the first 15 months of The Listening Fund:
1 – with the additional capacity afforded by the grant, Become have been able to listen to and take action on feedback which relates to other aspects of their work, not just the Policy Advisory Group and the Ideas and Input Council. This has led to some valuable improvements and also demonstrated to young people that Become are a listening organisation, thereby encouraging them to participate in more involved listening. For example, based on input from young people, Become have started using freely available technology – Twitter and text messages – to create different channels for engaging with APPG discussions. This has allowed those who face travel difficulties, or who find public speaking challenging, to add their voices to conversations.
2 – Although a lot of thought, consultation and work went into the formation of the Policy Advisory Group and Ideas and Input Council, Become have learnt to be flexible about how these groups operate. As of early 2019, based on feedback from young people, Become have amalgamated the two groups. This is less demanding of young people’s time and, crucially, allows links to be made between how young people want the organisation to operate and be structured, and what changes they hope to see in the statutory landscape.
3 – whilst the additional resource provided by the Fund has helped Become’s listening work develop, as has the hard work and excellence of the individual appointed to the new role, the organisational commitment to increasing the number of care-experienced voices within Become has helped generate a culture and atmosphere in which this work can flourish. Become now have more care-experienced Trustees and the board, together with the Senior Management Team, are eager to ensure that young people are able to not only provide feedback on the services Become delivers, or to challenge MPs and other decision-makers on their policies, but also to have oversight of a national organisation which aims to transform opportunities for and perceptions of those who are in or who have experienced care.
Become’s listening still faces challenges: they want to increase the diversity of the voices they hear and to make sure their work – especially that focused on policy – isn’t too London centric; they are conscious that there is scope for further improving how they use different digital channels to hear from more young people; and they are still developing their work with the Children in Care Councils throughout the UK. But what their work with the Fund to date has demonstrated is that good listening begets more listening, empowering young people and helping to shape services so they best meet their needs.